With more than 190 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Christians and Muslims each make up nearly half of the population. In the predominantly Muslim north, the notorious Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram continues to carry out attacks and assaults on the Christian minority. In 2019, numerous priests were kidnapped by the terrorists. But the violence suffered only creates stronger bonds between believers. ACN knows how desperately the Nigerian Church needs help in these difficult times. This is why we are active here with numerous aid projects.
Violent attacks have occurred time and again, not only in the north, but also in the country’s central zone. Here, heavily armed Muslim Fulani shepherds roam, some of whom are even more brutal than the Boko Haram extremists. Another problem is the increasing number of kidnappings. In the state of Enugu alone, nine priests were abducted in 2019. Representatives of the local Church fear that the intention behind the acts of violence could be to trigger a national conflict between the religious communities.
The violence suffered has only strengthened Christians’ faith.Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna
They are reassured, however, that in the face of violence Muslims and Christians are intensifying their efforts for a fruitful interreligious dialogue. Nigerian bishops reported to ACN that believers are standing even closer together in their faith due to the violence suffered, and that the number of Catholics is rising. As a result, more parishes were founded and additional church services were offered in 2019. At the same time, the number of priestly and religious callings is also increasing.
Nevertheless, the local Church is dependent on help from abroad to fulfil its pastoral tasks, to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure and to assist those who are in mourning and are traumatised. ACN therefore primarily provides aid for the formation of priests, construction assistance and supports needy priests with Mass stipends. Spiritual retreats for priests have also been sponsored to strengthen their spirit in the face of difficult challenges and to give them the opportunity to refuel, both in mind and in spirit.
A summer course for trainers
Moses Daniel has taught at the seminary of the eastern Nigerian diocese of Yola for ten years. Thanks to ACN’s help, he was able to attend a fourweek international course for trainers in Rome this summer. He writes: “Participating in this course, I realised that I have to do more than I have ever done before. This programme really opened my eyes.”